- The New York Times this week agreed to buy Serial Productions, creator of the popular true-crime podcast "Serial," to broaden its range of audio programming that includes its news podcast "The Daily," per an announcement. The Times paid about $25 million for the podcast producer, the newspaper reported, citing a person familiar with the deal.
- As a result of the deal, Serial Productions will increase its output of podcasts and promote them on the newspaper's website, newsletters and other media channels. Julie Snyder and Sarah Koenig, creators of "Serial," will join the Times as executive editor and executive producer of Serial Productions, respectively. Neil Drumming, a filmmaker and former producer of radio show "This American Life," will be the managing editor of "Serial."
- The Times also formed a creative and strategic alliance with "This American Life," whose host Ira Glass co-founded Serial Productions with Snyder and Koenig in 2017. Glass and his team are working with the Times to increase listenership, develop audio content and collaborate on marketing and advertising sales, per the announcement.
The New York Times' acquisition of Serial Productions likely will give mobile marketers a chance to sponsor an expanded range of podcasts from the newspaper as it increases its output of audio programming. The company's "The Daily" consistently ranks as one of the most popular podcasts among U.S. audiences, per researcher Podtrac. Podcasts are forecast to see a 15% increase in U.S. ad revenue to about $1 billion this year, per a revised estimate by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and consulting firm PwC. The Times can expand its share of that market by appealing to more brands that sponsor podcast programming.
The acquisition of "Serial" follows the Times' gradual expansion into audio and visual programming. The company in March bought start-up Listen in Audio, which runs the subscription service Audm that turns text content into audio, per an announcement. A regulatory filing showed that the Times paid $8.6 million for the startup. In 2017, the Times started a collaboration with video streaming platform Hulu and cable network FX on a TV newsmagazine called "The Weekly," which it later rebranded as a monthly documentary series titled "The New York Times Presents," per its report.
The acquisition of Serial Productions comes amid surging investment in podcasting, with much of the investment being driven by Spotify, the audio streaming platform that started with on-demand music and has expanded into podcasts to differentiate its service from growing rivals like Apple Music. In addition to its licensing deals with popular podcasts like "The Joe Rogan Experience," Spotify has expanded its programming by snapping up Bill Simmons' The Ringer network, podcast producer Gimlet Media, podcast production platform Anchor and narrative-focused podcast studio Parcast. Amid these investments, Spotify and Omnicom Media Group made a $20 million deal that will give the agency holding group and its clients special access to the platform's innovations around podcasts.
For Serial Productions, the acquisition gives the producer more financial resources to produce original podcast and greater marketing muscle in promoting them. The company has mostly worked on one project at a time, and can now hire additional producers and possibly more journalists, the Times reported. Serial Productions was formed several years after the podcast "Serial" in 2014 became a hit as a spinoff of "This American Life." "Serial" told the story of a 1999 murder case in Baltimore, questioning whether high school student Adnan Syed killed his ex-girlfriend.